- Do you want to learn how to get in the zone, maintain razor-sharp focus, and improve your productivity and performance at will? If so, you might be interested in the new book by Damon Zahariades, The Art of Finding Flow: How to Get in the Zone, Maintain Razor-Sharp Focus, and Improve Your Productivity and Performance at Will!
- To learn more about the book and how it can help you achieve flow in every area of your life, read the full article below. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover the secrets and benefits of flow!
Athletes, artists and business innovators experience “a flow state” – complete absorption in the task at hand. An almost ecstatic condition, flow occurs when you do your best work for the sheer pleasure of it. Nothing distracts you, nothing worries you, nothing else exists but the present situation. Flow may seem a rare gift that only a lucky few enjoy, but anyone can induce a state of flow. Damon Zahariades outlines simple techniques you can practice to put yourself in a state of flow.
- “Flow” is a state of utter absorption, in which nothing matters except what you are doing.
- Fear hampers flow.
- Triggers for flow may be cognitive, environmental, creative or social.
- Stress consumes focus and keeps you out of the zone.
- Beware of exhaustion and burnout.
- Recognize the cycles that affect you.
- Specify your objective. Flow requires a clear goal.
- Practice monotasking.
- A challenge, good habits and positive feedback help you achieve flow.
- Certain signals indicate when you are in the flow state.
“Flow” is a state of utter absorption, in which nothing matters except what you are doing.
In the ecstatic condition of flow, people feel most alive, and the task at hand becomes so pleasurable that work becomes play. Many believe entering this immersive state requires a stroke of luck or a gift from the muses. But you can control the circumstances that put you into flow. Flow occurs when an activity is challenging, but your ability to carry it out should align with the task. If you don’t have the skills to do a job, your effort will end in frustration and stress. And if your skills exceed the job’s requirements, expect boredom. Aim for a suitable juncture between these.
“The difficulty involved in whatever we’re doing increases our absorption and sharpens our focus to the point that everything else fades into the background.”
Flow is not the disorder of hyperfocus associated with poor self-control and impulsiveness. Flow leads to enhanced creativity, heightened learning and positive stress – “eustress.” No matter what kind of work you do, flow can help. Even household chores can happen “in the zone.” Habits that induce flow include going for a walk, breathing exercises or certain music, for example. Everyone experiences flow differently. Although a feeling of focus and control without effort seems to come to everyone, other emotions arising from flow depend on the individual and the task.
Fear hampers flow.
Anxiety and stress can paralyze you. People fear failure, achievement, change, making mistakes or receiving censure. You may fear the unfamiliar, assuming responsibility or being left out. These emotions stymie flow.
“First, identify your fear.”
Pay attention to the situation that gives rise to your fear. Pause and consider whether you really need to be afraid. People often catastrophize, creating mental scenarios in which the worst case happens. When you fall into that trap, shut your eyes and visualize a positive outcome to relieve your fears.
Triggers for flow may be cognitive, environmental, creative or social.
No single flow trigger works best for everyone. Try out different scenarios and note how you respond. Work in various environments, for example, alone or in a busy shop, in silence, with music or noise. Note when your focus sharpens.
Distractions impede flow. They may come from outside, as from a colleague who wants to chat, or from inside, when thoughts about finances, relationships or other matters intrude. Shutting your office door and skipping unnecessary meetings may help reduce external distractions. Distractions that come from within may be more challenging. Exercise, sleep and diet can help, as can meditation or therapy.
“Pursue activities that carry a risk of consequences, and then note whether that risk sharpened your focus or distracted you.”
An inner voice telling you that you can’t perform can be the most powerful antagonist of flow. Try rephrasing your inner voice into the second person by replacing “I” with “you.” Require evidence for your doubts and remember examples of your behavior that render self-accusations false. The critical inner voice usually exaggerates the situation. Pay close attention to what it says to expose its falsehood.
Perfectionism undermines confidence and can become obsessive. No one can achieve perfection, so making that your goal causes discouragement, anxiety and despair. Anxiety fades when you acknowledge your ability to meet challenges.
Stress consumes focus and keeps you out of the zone.
Stress can occur in response to major trauma or from minor issues, such as a disagreement with a colleague. To cope with stress, relax by doing something enjoyable. You might exercise, meditate, perform breathing exercises, cultivate sleep or ignore the constant drumbeat of news. Spend time around people with whom you can express yourself honestly.
“Learning to say no is the best way to avoid the trap of overcommitment.”
Another obstacle to flow is committing to too many obligations. The habit of saying yes can undermine you. Be aware of what matters to you and spend your time doing that. Remember that rejecting a request is not rejecting the person asking. This discipline enables you to focus on your priorities and avoid possible anxiety.
Beware of exhaustion and burnout.
You cannot achieve flow when you’re burned out. To keep burnout at bay, connect with those around you and seek out positive people. Change your perspective by focusing on the aspects of a job you find appealing rather than those you find unpalatable. Don’t be afraid to take a break and always safeguard your health.
Extrinsic motivation – such as rewards or peer recognition – can be helpful, but to trigger flow you need an intrinsic motive, not a reward or recognition that may come from outside.
“Research shows that intrinsic motivation requires three conditions: autonomy, competence and relatedness.”
A short exercise can help define your motivations. Consider a pursuit, whether job-related or leisure. Ask yourself why you do it and whether you have a choice about doing it. Are you autonomous in this activity or do you pursue it for the reinforcement others may provide?
Recognize the cycles that affect you.
It takes energy to focus. Note when your energy is at its best. Circadian rhythms over a 24-hour time span differ from person to person. So do “infradian rhythms,” cycles that last longer than a day (for example, a woman’s menstrual cycle). The rhythm that matters most for productivity, the “ultradian,” is shorter than a day. The “basic rest-activity cycle” (BRAC) is an ultradian rhythm lasting about an hour and a half.
At the beginning of a BRAC, concentration comes easily. Toward the end, your focus will likely start to blur. A cycle may be longer or shorter, depending on the individual. Record when your BRAC occurs and its duration, noting your focus at the beginning and when it begins to flag. When it does, take a break for half an hour and consider what you recorded as your baseline. Repeat the exercise again, take another break, then do it a third time. These three sessions should provide a clear understanding of your BRAC.
“Many people struggle to enjoy quality sleep but neglect to take steps to improve it.”
Sleep also goes through cycles. The Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep is extremely important. REM is the sleep of dreams, and plays a role in forming memories and processing emotions. A REM sleep deficit takes a toll on daytime concentration and clarity, inhibiting flow. Support healthful sleep by abstaining from food, drink, alcohol, tobacco and electronics for a while before bed. When you wake up each morning, make a note of how you feel. Improvement will take repetition of healthful, mindful cycles over many days and weeks, so persevere.
Sleep is not the only kind of rest, critical though it may be. Rest can be physical, mental, emotional, creative, sensory, social and spiritual. Prioritize getting the rest you require.
Specify your objective. Flow requires a clear goal.
People often start to act without a clear understanding of where to go or why. Being busy is not the same thing as being in flow. Begin by writing down what you hope to achieve clearly and precisely. What will success look like? Consider whether you have the know-how to achieve your goal in the time frame available. When you clarify your goal, you can achieve flow more easily because you can focus all your attention on the job you have to do.
“Having an uncomplicated, understandable objective is crucial to achieving flow.”
When you know precisely where you’re going, take measured steps to get there. Lack of clarity fosters confusion and diffidence.To achieve clarity, put your short-term goals in writing and enunciate the reason for each goal. Establish straightforward success metrics, but plan for the worst outcome and have a contingency strategy in case things don’t work out.
You may have fallen into the multitasking trap – possibly due to boredom or impatience, or perhaps because you erroneously believe multitasking is more productive than focusing on one task at a time. Multitasking requires the effort and energy of switching from one task to another. Monotasking demands a new approach.
Schedule your day into short sessions and work on a single task during each session. As you progress, lengthen your sessions from a few minutes of monotasking to a quarter of an hour. Schedule breaks to let your mind roam, but don’t answer the phone or check email during these breaks. Go for a walk and savor being outdoors.
“People will need to retrain themselves to monotask. They need to unravel years of programming that compels them to multitask habitually.”
Work on the discipline of finishing one task before starting another. It may take some time for you to break the multitasking habit, but stay the course. The payoff is worth the effort. Another exercise that helps is to write the word “Distractions” at the top of a notepad. List all the things that typically distract you during a timed session and try to mitigate them. Write another column under the headline “Solo Tasks,” listing things that you can do without help from anyone else. Pick one of these and identify a time slot when you can do it. Time yourself as you work on a chosen solo task. Stop the timer when your attention drifts. The time you were able to focus is your baseline. Aim to gradually extend this baseline each time you practice monotasking.
A challenge, good habits and positive feedback help you achieve flow.
Choose a challenge, a task that is somewhat difficult but not impossible to achieve. Add time constraints or set rewards for hitting certain levels. If your challenge proves excessively daunting, organize it by elements or stages. List these in writing and tackle them one at a time.
“The simplest way to modify too-easy tasks and activities so that they’re more challenging and less tedious is through gamification.”
The Pomodoro method calls for short bursts of work followed by a few minutes of resting. This helps break the procrastination habit and minimizes distraction. However, your timer may go off just as you’re getting in the flow. Another approach is “flowtime.” Instead of a set time limit for work and break, work as long as your focus and momentum hold up. This helps trigger and sustain flow. Create a feedback loop by establishing weekly milestones based on distance and pace. Positive feedback is important for flow. If you are doing well, pat yourself on the back. If not, make the necessary adjustments to get back on track.
Certain signals indicate when you are in the flow state.
If you don’t have to think about what you are doing and aren’t worrying about what others think, if you feel in control and focused, unaware of time and are approaching a task with clarity and even joy, and you experience all of these at once, you are most likely in a flow state.
Even in less than perfect circumstances, you can achieve “microflow,” a less fruitful experience than a “full-blown flow” but still more productive than a quotidian mind-set. Although a few decades ago experts thought that flow could only last less than an hour, most now think the state can endure much longer. Usually a person can quell distractions to flow by clearing the decks first – for example, by taking care of small distractions, such as emails. Being aware of environmental needs and making sure you have everything required for the task at hand ensures fewer opportunities for disruption, allowing an “extended” flow state.
“When we’re wholly focused and engaged…our inner critic no longer stifles our behaviors and decisions. Our fears melt away, and we experience a feeling of peace and confidence.”
Several training techniques aid in achieving flow. Routines, such as a bedtime routine, allow you to go through the motions necessary without paying much attention. This can help signal to your brain that something is about to happen. Eliminate distractions because distractions block flow. Spending more time carefully reading quality non-fiction helps, and trying to summarize what you read brings flow benefits. To open your mind, eschew your tried-and-true approaches and seek new and different approaches instead.
Remember that the ecstasy you experience in the flow state can become addictive, while the simple experience of being completely absorbed could mean missing emergency alarms or social cues. Keeping this in check and practicing mindfulness will provide you with counterbalances to these potential dangers.
About the Author
Damon Zahariades runs the productivity blog ArtofProductivity.com.
Non-fiction, Self-help, Personal development, Psychology, Productivity, Performance, Motivation, Mindfulness, Happiness, Flow
The book is a practical and inspiring guide on how to achieve a flow state of mind, which is a cognitive state that allows you to perform at your highest level. Flow is the state of being fully immersed, engaged, and focused on a challenging and rewarding activity, such as playing a sport, writing a novel, or solving a problem. Flow can enhance your creativity, productivity, and happiness, as well as reduce your stress, anxiety, and boredom. The book explains the science and psychology behind flow, as well as the benefits and risks of experiencing it. It also provides a step-by-step action plan for learning how to trigger flow at will, as well as how to stay in flow once you enter it. The book covers the following topics:
- The definition and characteristics of flow, and how it differs from other states of mind, such as boredom, anxiety, and relaxation.
- The four types of triggers that can induce flow: challenge, clarity, feedback, and control.
- The eight enemies of flow that can prevent or interrupt it: distraction, multitasking, procrastination, perfectionism, fear, fatigue, hunger, and thirst.
- The exercises and activities that can help you practice and improve your ability to enter and maintain flow, such as setting goals, planning your tasks, eliminating distractions, managing your energy, and rewarding yourself.
- The signs and indicators that can help you recognize when you are in flow, such as losing track of time, feeling a sense of joy, and forgetting yourself.
- The strategies and techniques that can help you stay in flow longer, such as increasing the challenge, varying the activity, and focusing on the process.
- The potential dark side of flow, and how to avoid the pitfalls and dangers of becoming addicted, obsessed, or isolated by flow.
- The timeless investment practices that can help you achieve flow in every area of your life, such as discipline, humility, and patience.
The book is a valuable and comprehensive resource for anyone who wants to learn how to access and harness the power of flow. The author, Damon Zahariades, is an expert on productivity and personal development, and he shares his insights and experience in a clear and engaging way. The book is well-researched and evidence-based, but also practical and actionable. The book offers a wealth of tips, examples, and exercises that can help you apply the concepts and principles of flow to your own life and work. The book is not only informative, but also inspiring and motivating. The book shows you how to overcome the obstacles and challenges that prevent you from reaching your full potential, and how to enjoy the process and the outcome of your endeavors. The book is a must-read for anyone who wants to improve their performance, creativity, and productivity in a low-return world.